EYEWITNESS TO HISTORY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

The time I was in college combined with the place where I went to college made my college experience truly unique. The time was 1967-1971, a dramatic period in national history. The place was Barnard College, the all-female school affiliated with Columbia University in New York City. I was at the epicenter of a major student movement that swept the country and ultimately affected university structure as well as government policy.

If you Goggle “Columbia University Riots of 1968, 1970 and 1971”, you’ll find tons of material documenting the world-famous, world-changing events that I experienced first hand – sort of. I was away on the sidelines of this epic battle between the campus Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the university administration.

I was a commuter student – I lived at home in New York City with my parents, a subway ride away, not in the dorms on campus. So the minute the SDS took over the Administration Building in April of 1968, I stopped going to the campus and stayed at home. I learned what was happening from the news and from my friends who lived on campus.

This protest had two major goals. One was to end the university’s academic support for the Vietnam War. The other was to stop the construction of a segregated gymnasium and swimming pool on university-owned property near the campus. As the protests continued, the protesters took over other buildings on campus and the Acting College Dean was taken hostage for twenty-four hours. The protest grew in numbers and intensity and attracted the attention and support of the national radical movement of the time, led by Tom Hayden, who was then married to Jane Fonda.

After a week of lead stories on every national newscast and in every newspaper, the police were called in to quash the protests once and for all. Which they did with a vengeance. I got a call from a friend saying that police on horseback were riding around campus clubbing students. They also used teargas and stormed the occupied buildings. 132 students, four faculty and twelve police were injured and 700 protesters were arrested after a day-long battle with the police. More protests occurred in May with more arrests and more students beaten.

I was incensed when I heard that the protesters had occupied a history professor’s office and burned years of his research in the days before we had computers and backups to everything. I was strongly against the Vietnam War but I hated the protestor’s methods and extreme ideology. I felt that the movement was intent on tearing down everything without any ideas for what to put in its place. And I’d seen the leader of the SDS, Mark Rudd, around campus and thought he was an arrogant asshole.

Mark Rudd on campus (far right)

My grandmother was a socialist who had fought against the Tzar in Russia in the early 1900s and she was mad at me for not joining the protesters on the barricades. She felt that if I didn’t try to change things for the better when I was young, when would I? I saw her point but didn’t feel that this was the right way to effect meaningful change or the right people to do it.

Police on campus

The protests of 1968 paralyzed the university and were considered the most powerful and effective student protests in American history to date. What was my personal takeaway from this iconic experience?

Classes were canceled for more than a week and final exams were also canceled. We got whatever grade we had earned up to that point in each class. So I didn’t have to take finals in my first year at college. I considered that a win!

A newly famous and influential SDS mounted strikes against the university again in 1970 and 1971 to protest the Vietnam War and the presence of ROTC and military recruiters on campus. I still objected to their radical rhetoric and violent tactics and took no part in their activities. However I did benefit, yet again, from another university-wide shut down around final exam time.

Another year without finals! I’m probably part of the only class in American College history that only had to take two sets of final exams out of four years in college. And, oh yes, had a front seat to history in the making.

RETHINKING WEDDINGS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My son is getting married for the second time. He had a big wedding the first time, complete with a beautiful service in a synagogue, bridesmaids and groomsmen and a formal reception in a local restaurant’s banquet hall with 100 people in attendance.

I helped his first wife find a gorgeous but not outrageously expensive wedding dress. We also found inexpensive ways to decorate the reception room and dinner tables and she cut costs wherever possible. But it was still an expensive undertaking.

With young people drowning in debt these days and with housing costs so high in many parts of the country, I wonder why people are still having big weddings. In addition to the cost, the logistics of organizing every detail of a ceremony and reception can be overwhelming for people who are already overworked and short on free time.

Maybe part of the problem is that it’s hard to find a middle ground between a large, complex, over priced affair and eloping. That’s what my son discovered this time around and he opted, in effect, to elope. He and his fiancé tried to be as frugal as possible in planning an actual wedding ‘event’. They were going to have both the ceremony and the reception at my home, saving lots of money for the venue and decorations.

But they would have to keep the guest list at 60-65 people and that proved to be a problem. Once you start down the slippery slope of inviting one relative, you have to invite them all. The same applies to circles of friends, once one is invited, you’ll hurt everyone else’s feelings if you don’t invite them too.

Then my son found out that it’s not that easy to plan a full meal for 65 people, even lunch. Some caterers are cheaper, but they just bring food, not dishes, glasses or silverware. Others will bring dessert but not coffee. Then there’s the problem of who’s going to set up and man the bar and keep the food platters full. And who clears the meal and sets up the dessert?

No matter how small and simple my son tried to be, the logistics and the costs still got out of hand. That’s why my son and his fiancé decided on a quasi elopement.

They are getting married by a Justice of the Peace (an old family friend), in their living room, with just immediate family and two close friends. There will be thirteen people in all, including the bride and groom. Then we’re all going to a restaurant for lunch. If they take a honeymoon, it will only be for a weekend since they both have to work.

They got beautiful and thoughtful wedding bands and the bride bought a lovely new dress for the occasion. My daughter is flying cross country, from LA, to be at the truncated ceremony. So it will be a special and meaningful day without months of headaches and piles of bills.

Unless a bride and groom have high paying jobs or a wealthy family, it doesn’t make sense to spend hard earned savings on a big wedding extravaganza. Especially if you have to go further into debt for it. And even if you have the money, why waste months and months of your life stressing over wedding details and dealing with the family strife that is usually created?

Weddings used to mark the point when two individuals moved in together to create a joint home and a new family unit. And wedding gifts used to be a way to help young couples stock their new home. Today, many, if not most, couples live together before marriage.

Their households have already been merged and their kitchens fully stocked with all the necessary equipment and tools. When my son moved in with his fiancé, they had to hire an organizer to help them make room for all of my son’s stuff in their small house. They had to get rid of tons of ‘duplicate items’, particularly kitchen items. They have no room for any more ‘stuff.’

Getting married is a big deal, even today. Maybe our traditions celebrating the event should change along with the times. Maybe a small, informal party for close friends and family should be the norm. Something more like a bridal shower but for men too. And instead of gifts, guests should give checks to pay down student loans or to go toward the down payment on a new house. The concept of tangible items as gifts should maybe go the way of the dowry.

I’m not sure what will evolve in the future, but at least for those not in the top 1%, I think wedding celebrations will begin to change in the next few generations.

TEA AND EMPATHY WITH THE MEN OF SHARON – Garry Armstrong

One of the perks of being a retired TV news reporter are invitations for speaking to various groups, small and large. I enjoy them. It gets me “out” and I meet new and old friends. I must admit these invites do wonders for my ego. As Marilyn frequently says, “Garry never met a mic or camera he didn’t like.”

It’s my wife’s not so sly reminder that I’m a ham.  I plead guilty.

Recently, I was invited to speak to the Mens’ Club of Sharon, Massachusetts. No heavy lifting, I was assured. I like it that way. It means no great expectations and minimal pressure for the speaker.

I didn’t drink tea at the morning gathering. I just wanted to use that phrase, playing off one of my favorite movies, “Tea And Sympathy.” Hey, remind me to tell you my Deborah Kerr story – another time.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the large gathering at the Mens’ Club. Sometimes you puff yourself up for a big audience and only a handful of people show up. It’s happened to many people, including the guy in the Oval Office. I was a little anxious because heavy rain and rush hour traffic made early arrival difficult with the clock ticking.

I surveyed the gathering as I was introduced. For once, I wasn’t the oldest person in the room. Nice. Very nice. Obviously, in a gathering like that, my reputation preceded me. I wore a USMC sweater to give myself more legitimacy in an audience which included many veterans.

I began by pointing out my cochlear implant and talked about dealing with hearing impairment for most of my life. People are always surprised when I say poor hearing has been a bigger obstacle for me than the racism which is the runnerup hurdle in my life. I scanned the audience and saw heads shake in acknowledgment about hearing woes.

I tried to spot who was wearing hearing aids. I shared a few anecdotes about my uphill battle with hearing. It prompted me to get judges to give me advantageous seating for trials and advise attorneys to speak loudly and clearly. Some counselors didn’t appreciate being told to “speak up and scuttle the show biz asides.” The Sharon men nodded and laughed.

Yes, too much mumbling from high-priced lawyers and doctors.  Everyone could relate to that.

I segued from the courtroom back to my short stint in the Marine Corps. I shared a few stories about life at Parris Island in 1959. I saw more smiles in the audience. Later, there would be shared stories from fellow gyrenes who made it through the rigors of basic training. We laughed about how we provoked the patience of steely-eyed Drill Instructors. I “killed it” when I told about laughing in the face of a “DI” who was trying to scare the bejeezus out of we motley recruits. There would be stories from the other Marines of a certain age. Lots of smiles and laughter.

I backed into my bag of war stories about favorite interviews over the years. My John Wayne story always brings smiles. The recollection works because it’s more about me behaving like a fanboy than getting the Duke’s interview. Almost 50 years later, I’m still elated over meeting Duke Wayne.  Hey, he shook MY hand. My hand!

There were anecdotes about coverage of the volatile school desegregation years in Boston. I could see the concern – then disbelief as I recalled my confrontation with anti-busing activists who threatened my crew and targeted me with racial epithets. It was a surreal moment as I silenced the angry crowd, assuring them, “Hey — hold on!  I’m not a “ni__er — no, I’m a SAMOAN!”

It was a pre-Mel Brooks moment as the crowd dispersed, murmuring, “Wow, He’s a Samoan, he’s not a ni__er.”  Belly laughs from the men of Sharon! I assured them the story was true if hard to believe.

I wrapped my talk with a few anecdotes about the downside of being the famous “blizzard reporter.” People always remember seeing me in lousy weather at dawn’s early light. They smile when I tell them about close calls with nature when I was beckoned for yet another live shot about the weather. They appreciate the kindness of strangers letting me in to use their bathroom and then calling friends to boast that I was sitting in their throne room. Very descriptive, boastful calls.

My voice was turning into a whisper, a clue for me to wrap it up. There was a comment from the audience that Id forgotten over the years, “You always looked bigger on TV..”

It was the “Alan Ladd” syndrome.  For over 3 decades, many people thought I was at least a 6-footer in my TV appearances. In reality, I’m always the shortest man in the room.

The men of Sharon loved it. I enjoyed my time with them. It was good to see people my own age out and about and interested. We move slowly, but we still move!

TURNING SUCCESS INTO FAILURE – Rich Paschall

Thinking Small, Rich Paschall

Some organizations think big and do big.  You may know such organizations.  You may wonder how they accomplish so much.  How can a social service agency, school, church, or park district pull off grand events with a small budget and a small staff?  Yet, there are quite a number that do it.  What is the difference between the successes and those that think big and fail?  What is the difference between thinking bag, and those who just think small?

Image: Mashable.com

Image: Mashable.com

Many think big but fail because they aren’t willing to do the work.  They want to be triumphant, but they are just hoping it will somehow happen. They rely on others stepping up to do what they should be doing.

The truth is that those running an event must step forward. They need to recruit volunteers to do what needs doing to guarantee success.  Some leaders are willing to do this, but many others rely on dumb luck. Dumb being the operative word. It’s the dedication to the task that’s important, not luck.

You have to work harder to find potential leaders and willing workers than in years past. So many things compete for our attention. Life is busier than it used to be … and then, there are the apps on our phones, tablets and laptops. We may not be willing to devote the large chunk of time required to make a successful event. If it took five calls to get two people to help out 20 years ago, maybe it takes 10 calls now. Or 20. Is the organization willing to do it?

In many cases, the answer is no.

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Being reliant on Facebook calls to action and church bulletin messages will likely get you nowhere.  It’s the personal touch that matters.

Text messages and email blasts don’t have the personal touch you need to win volunteers. We are in the digital age and can contact a lot of people quickly by email, social media, and text messaging, but it’s not a reliable road to success. Such messages get lost in the myriad messages that are posted every day.

So, we actually have to talk to people if we want to get their attention.  We have to pick up the phone.  We have to meet them at events.  We have to stand outside of Church, school, wherever and shake their hands.  Even in the digital age, or maybe exactly because of it, we must reach out to people personally, if we want to help a project meet its goal.

UU Church 47

Then there are those who think small from the start.  They see the modern-day task of making a success so daunting that they prefer not to tackle it at all.  These types of “leaders” obviously are not the ones who brought the organization along over the years, but they are certainly the ones to stall it in its tracks.  Saying it is too hard, or it can’t be done, or people will not step forward anymore is admitting defeat from the outset.  It is also proof that they are in the wrong business.  There is a choice to meet the challenge or run from it.  Some choose to run.  Let them go.

Recently, I was involved in an alumni event that found the organization itself dragging its feet on a number of issues.  When the night of the event came, after months of planning meetings, things did not go smoothly.  Nevertheless, it was the largest alumni event they had in decades. Yes, decades.  Were they happy with this?

Because of its shortcomings, the pastor promptly declared it would have been better to run an event for 50 or 60 people than this event for 250 — which was much more work and went poorly. The pastor was upset.

Was it personal embarrassment?  No, because he didn’t work on it. Unfortunately, he was looking for ways to place blame rather than looking for how to make events better in the future.

People who step into leadership roles but who have little leadership experience, are likely to torpedo your efforts. Those who have their hands full already and see an event as too much additional work, will likely trip you up. Those who are afraid of embarrassment and will only accept success — never failure — will only minimally succeed. They’ve already set limits on their potential success. Worse, they have unknowingly limited the likely success of the organizations they are supposed to lead.

A BROADWAY AWARDS SHOW – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Tom was in charge of the audio for the Outer Critics Circle award show at Sardi’s in New York City on May 23, 2019. So Tom and I got to have a unique and fun and very ‘New York’ experience. The show is a mini version of the Tony Awards but done in the afternoon, so no glamorous evening gowns.

Event program

We had to drive into the city the night before to bring in all the audio equipment and set it up on site. My job was to gaffer tape the endless wires to the carpet and walls so no one tripped over them. It was interesting to watch the event coordinators set the tables (it was a lunch/dinner at 3 PM), decide who sat where and set out the place cards.

The 27 awards were announced beforehand so only the winners showed up, which limited the guest list to 120, or twelve tables of ten each. Most of the people were behind the scene stars who I didn’t recognize. People like producers, directors, composers, sets, costumes and lighting people, agents, publicists, etc. The room covered all aspects of what it takes to put together a theatrical production, both musicals, and straight plays.

Page in program listing award winners

The audio table was set up for Tom and me in the back near the back door so I didn’t expect to see any celebrities close up. Surprise! They had set up a black curtain with the Outer Circle Critics logo all over it right next to me, near the back door. I thought it was just for decoration and name placement. I didn’t realize that that door was where everyone entered so they could be photographed in front of the black curtain.

The press corps, photo, and video were directly right in front of me. The celebrities entered, one by one, and posed for the press in front of the curtain/backdrop.

They chatted briefly with the press. All this took place three feet in front of me! I was taking photos too and the press photographers moved out of the way so I could get good shots. I told them it was just for a blog, but I got professional courtesy and was treated like a member of the press corps.

Photographers lined up to take pictures of celebrities

I also got to see some video interviews — a real treat.

Tina Fey was one of the presenters/masters of ceremony and she was charming and funny, as usual. I got some close ups of her as she entered and posed for the cameras and I also took pictures of her talking at the podium.

Tina posing for the photographers.

A film and TV actor, Hamish Linklatter was also very funny as a presenter,  The Big Short, and Fantastic Four movies as well as The Newsroom and The Good Wife on TV. He did a dramatic reading of his presenter speech, which was hilarious.

Hamish Linklatter

Bryan Cranston gave a delightful acceptance speech too — “Breaking Bad,” “Malcolm In The Middle,” and “All The Way” (TV) and the movie “Trumbo.”

Joel Grey

It was a thrill to see classic stars like Joel Grey — “Cabaret,” the play and movie. John Callum — “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever” among numerous stage credits as well as TV’s “Northern Exposure,” and “Madame Secretary.”

John Callum

The legendary costume designer, Bob Mackie was also there. He did all of Cher’s clothes for her TV show as well as the costumes for the Carol Burnett Show. He also dressed many stars, like Judy Garland and Liz Minnelli, to name a few.

Bob Mackle

Another charming actress who got an award was Stephanie J. Block for her role as the older Cher in the musical based on her life. She said she had 29 costume changes during each show, eight times a week!

Stephanie J. Block

I also saw a favorite of mine, Brian D’Arcy James, who was in the TV musical Smash as well as originating lead roles in the musicals “Shrek the Musical,” “Next To Normal” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.”

Brian D’Arcy James

Our friend, Barbara Rosenblat was in the audience. She is a member of our Audio Theater Group, Voicescapes Audio Theater as well as being a world-renowned, award-winning audiobook narrator.

She has also appeared many times on the Broadway stage. She was in the original cast of “The Secret Garden” and got her caricature drawn and hung in Sardi’s. The restaurant opened in 1921 and is known for these caricature drawings covering all of its walls, representing the Broadway stars from the 1920s to today.

Barbara Rosenblat

I knew Barbara’s drawing was there but I had never seen it. We, along with the rest of the crew, were treated to a dinner at Sardi’s restaurant downstairs after the show. Coincidentally, I was seated directly in front of Barbara’s drawing. So Cool!

Barbara’s caricature on Sardi’s wall

All in all, it was an exhausting but wonderful adventure.

THE LIGHT IN THE CORNER – Rich Paschall

The Way We Were, Rich Paschall

Memories light the corners of my mind
Misty water-colored memories of the way we were.

It has occurred to me that the formative moments of my lifetime have no point of reference for anyone born after 1990. I have sometimes referred to events that I remember well, only to have younger people, sometimes not even “young” people, look at me as if they can not relate to that time in history.

Perhaps it was the same when I was younger and hearing about things that were not that much earlier than my lifetime.  For example, I could not relate to the stories of the depression era, even though that point in time dramatically affected the lives of my parents and grandparents.

World War II was something we read about in history books.  I could not consider that my father was a member of our “greatest generation” and fought in the war. In fact he served in the 509 Composite on Tinian Island.  It never occurred to me to question him about the historic events of his time.

Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind
Smiles we gave to one another for the way we were

The “Leave It To Beaver” and “Father Knows Best” days of the 1950’s are rather a blur to me.  I hold isolated memories of certain moments, some of them were good, others not so much.  I do remember getting to watch particular programs on our large 19 inch black and white television. It would be a long time before color television came along and we could afford one of those.

Can it be that it was all so simple then
Or has time rewritten every line

Alan Shepherd was the first man in space and we watched it on television in 1961. Ten years later he walked on the moon. Sometimes we got to watch reports of the space program on television in school.

I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. It was a time when it seemed like nuclear war was right around the corner. We had air raid drills at school. We got under our desks and covered our heads as if that was going to protect us from a nuclear explosion. We knew where the air raid shelters were located in case we needed to go there in non-school hours. I am pretty sure we stocked up on can goods just in case supermarkets and food supplies were blown into the next dimension.

Like many Americans, I know where I was when John Kennedy was shot. We followed the non-stop television coverage during a time when there was no cable or satellite television and no all-news stations. What could be more important than the assassination of our president?

Memories may be beautiful and yet
What’s too painful to remember
We simply choose to forget

I recall the assassination of Martin Luther King and the worries that followed. Then there was the assassination of Robert Kennedy. It was too painful to remember, but these things shaped our youth.

Martin Luther King

The Viet Nam War was not a moment in history to us. It was a long and complicated process that split America apart and brought protests to the street. Living in a major urban area, we always wondered if the unrest would reach us. The Democratic National Convention was here in 1968. Riots erupted in the park that now holds Lollapalooza each year.

timetoast.com

The break-in of the Democratic National Committee Headquarters at the Watergate complex in 1972 ultimately brought down a president. It all played out in dramatic fashion on live television. Today many scandals have the word “gate” added to the end. Young people likely have no idea why.

So it’s the laughter we will remember
Whenever we remember
The way we were

The late ’70s brought us disco and urban cowboys. We were old enough then to go to clubs and dance like we knew what we were doing. Our music moved from social commentary to “dance fever.” It was a quick shift in the social dynamic. We also had gas shortages in ’73 and ’79. Yes, gas stations would run out of gas and there were times when you could only buy gas on certain days, depending on your license number.  I didn’t own a car the first time, and I guess I didn’t get around much the second time.

The ’80s were a time of community theater and new friendships for me.  I also remember the fallacy of trickle-down economics. It was the same failed theory as today’s failed policy. The Cold War ended, well sort of. The AIDS crisis began.

From there the rest of life intervened.  You know, going to work, paying the bills, trying to get by in a complicated world. There were issues of aging parents and family obligations. Then one day you are just older, like your grandparents were when you were young.

If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me, would we?
Could we?

1987

Which of these events was the most significant in my life? I am not sure I can say. They all affected us in ways it is hard to tell many years later. But these are the ones that stand out.  It is the stream of my consciousness. They are the events that light the corners of my mind.  I did not write them down in advance. I sat down and just wrote them out as they came to me. Do these events mean anything to anyone born after 1990?

I wonder what are the significant historic or social events for those born in 1991. Someday these millennials will find that there are people who can not relate to what they are saying.

By the way, I got to see Streisand do this twice in concert. It was worth every penny.

THE COMMUNITY EVENT – Rich Paschall

Do You Have The Time? by Rich Paschall

There are plenty of community organizations that will grab your time, if only you let them. They want you for a variety of tasks and the really organized organizers will stalk you if they think you will volunteer for something. They want you to stuff envelopes, sell tickets, make phone calls, sit at booths and sell things. They will have you directing traffic, ushering people, handing out programs. You can go to meetings, answer email, talk on the phone, spend hours of your precious time in pursuit of the organizational mission, whatever that might be.

But what if you do not have the time for this? After all, if you are part of a family crew, you may have to drive little Johnny or Suzy to soccer practice, karate lessons, football practice, baseball practice, cheerleading practice, dance class, piano lessons, drum and bugle corps, or basketball games. If they are young, it is pre-school or grade school or daycare or after school care. If they are older it is still sports, music, dances, proms, band, drama, speech and please, drop them at the corner so no one knows their mommy is still driving them around.

Of course, there are all the adult requirements too.  There are weddings and showers, wakes, and funerals. As we get older, there are more of the latter. There are dances and parties we don’t want to attend and family events for which you must make your famous __________ (insert dish name here). It all keeps us so very busy. How dare these “organizers” presume to prevail upon our valuable time?

Yet, these various events to which you are driving the beloved little ones (or not-so-little ones) are probably staffed by volunteers. Adults and a handful of older kids are taking tickets, selling refreshments, selling t-shirts, directing people around events. They are running for ice, and pop and cups and napkins. They are getting mustard and ketchup. They are making emergency runs to Costco or Sam’s Club so they do not run out of water or buns or napkins. In other words, they are making everything possible that you and little Johnny and Suzy are attending.

As a staff member at a community organization for a few years, and for a private school a few others, I know what it is like to have to run events, dependent on volunteers who may or may not show up. Fortunately, most are dedicated and in their places when the time comes.

Yes, that's me on the left, getting rained on for the cause.

Yes, that’s me on the left, getting rained on for the cause.

While some organizations pressure the parents of the children who participate to volunteer, many others are reliant on the goodwill of neighbors and friends.  Though many do not realize it, the events they attend throughout the year might not be there if there were no volunteers. In fact, some community organizations die for lack of volunteer spirit. A founder of one community organization here said many decades after the organization he began was up and running, that perhaps it should die if the community was not willing to come forward and support it. They, in fact, gave up some large events for lack of volunteers.

Here I could give you the “social contract” type speech. You know the one.  If you are part of the community, you must give up something in order to reap the benefits of community activities. That something you must give up is your time. I know that is hard to do in this day and age. After all, we must get home to check our Facebook and Twitter accounts. We must look at Instagram and Snapchat. We must check Messenger and Skype. Then there is Pinterest and YouTube, Vimeo and Vevo.

What enriches our lives is what we invest in. If we invest in our community and its events, then we are richer too. The volunteer spirit does not necessarily lead to dull and boring jobs. Instead, it can lead to knowing your neighbors. You could be learning about the organization to which you and your children participate. It can open new avenues to friendship in the community in which you live. It can give you an understanding of what it takes to make a community.

Hillary Clinton famously said “It Takes A Village,” from the African proverb that it takes a village to raise a child.

In fact, it takes a community, a good community, to raise a child. The only way a community can be good and strong is with the volunteer spirit of its residents. Are you going to give up an occasional Saturday at some event or sports bar to aid your community, or will you just let someone else do it? If you choose the latter, then I remind you of the philanthropist who suggested that it might be better to let a community organization die, if the community was unwilling to support it.

DISCOVERING HOME – Rich Paschall

Local Culture by Rich Paschall

Whether you live in a large city or a small town, there are likely to be places of cultural interest, historic sites or local festivals nearby.  If you are in Mitchell, South Dakota you can visit the Corn Palace.  Stockbridge, Massachusetts has the renowned Norman Rockwell Museum.  Hannibal, Missouri has the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, along with the white fence that may (or may not) have been the inspiration for the scene of Tom Sawyer getting his friends to whitewash the fence.

Tom Sawyer Fence? Hannibal, Missouri

In a big city like Chicago, there are many large cultural attractions.  The Museum of Science and Industry is located in a building erected for the 1893 World’s Colombian Exhibition.  The Art Institute on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago holds many iconic artworks.  The “museum campus” on the lakefront contains the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium and the Field Museum of Natural History, home to Sue, our T-Rex skeleton.  Yeah, it’s big.  Washington Park on the south side of the city holds the DuSable Museum named after the Haitian fur trader and supposed first permanent settler in the area now known as Chicago.  I have been to them all.

Du Sable Museum, Chicago

It is impossible to get to all the festivals around town.  We love a good festival and the summer is filled with them. Ethnicity, pride, food, drink, music are all reasons for festivals. In the third largest USA city, you can not know about all of the attractions, even if you have lived here all of your life.  On a recent visit from a friend from out-of-state, we found a few things we have missed in the past.

Before arriving in town he suggested we go to the Chicago Beer Classic at Soldier Field.  I had no idea we had a beer classic.  With booths set up all around the playing field where the Chicago Bears attempt football, one could go around and get 2-ounce samples from 150 craft beers in a special 2-ounce souvenir glass.  These were mostly out of area beers with only a few local brews known to us.

Soldier Field in Spring

Armed with a booklet of 48 tickets we set off for our samples.  I used 15 tickets but since some booths did not bother to collect them, I probably got about 20 samples, not a lot for 3 hours.   We interrupted our beer trek to take the behind the scenes tour of Soldier Field.  We saw locker rooms and some of the features of the recently renovated stadium.  Little more than the original columns exist today.

Chicago Beer Classic

Our week of local interests included the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, founded in 1857.  The original museum collection was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.  Today it is located in a Lincoln Park building erected in 1999, containing exhibits of nature unique to the Midwest.

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

One of the most popular features of the museum is the Butterfly Haven.  You have to be careful opening the doors to this large atrium style room so that the butterflies and moths do not fly away.  We were lucky enough to be there when they released new butterflies and moths to the room, which is a daily occurrence due to their short lifespan. In fact, some of the large moths they release only last about 5 hours.  If you sit still, some are likely to land on you.

The Chicago History Museum was also on our hometown tour.  This was founded as the Chicago Historical Society in 1856 and like the Nature Museum, it lost its collection in the Great Chicago Fire.   The current structure in Lincoln Park was built in 1932 and has been expanded twice.

We found interesting displays including those on Abe Lincoln, the development and recording of Blues in Chicago, and the struggles of diversity throughout our history.  I stepped onto an old elevated train car and sat at a school desk and saw that children of color did not always get the same education as others.  I saw a mocked up recording studio for Chicago Blues musicians.  If you were bold enough, you could walk into a little club room and sing the blues for us, karaoke style.

Chicago History Museum

By the way, I missed the Corn Palace in South Dakota.  When I was eight years old, we were on one of those family road trips to see Mount Rushmore. On the way back we went through Mitchell.  When we got there I was sleeping in the back seat of the car, so they left me there and my parents and older brother went to check out the palace.  Someone should have called Child and Family Services on these people. I think I was scarred for life by missing this attraction.

Many years later I took a friend from France to Hannibal, Missouri.  One of the few things he knew about the country was from reading Tom Sawyer.  I can not imagine how that translated. I am actually in the picture at the top, but my friend was clearly more interested in capturing Tom Sawyer’s fence than getting me in the picture.

If I ever get to Stockbridge, I am sure I will check out the Norman Rockwell Museum.  I have always been fascinated by the detail of his work.  I remember seeing them often on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.

What are your favorite local spots of interests?  What do you have left to explore on your stay-at-home vacation?  What could possibly be close to home that you do not even know about…yet?

STUPID ON THE NEWS – Marilyn Armstrong

The first day, a family at a Dutch safari park gets out of their car to get a better look at a bunch of cheetahs. The cheetahs act a bit threatening. In fact, one of them gets into the car, sits next to the driver, and sniffs around. Fortunately, the driver sat there quietly. No screaming, sudden movements. Nothing that told the cheetah he was “prey.”

After that, the rest of the family got back in the car. The family had a conference. Lord knows what they talked about, but next thing you know, they get back OUT of the car — carrying the baby — I’m assuming to get a selfie with the big cats.

This time, the cats said “Hmm. Lunch? Dinner?” and they started to circle. By now, Garry and I are rooting for the cats. This family is too stupid to be allowed to live. They are far better off feeding some of our rarest large cats.

Garry is still muttering about them getting back OUT of the car the second time. How stupid were these people? Even the news people looking at the video were baffled. This was really, exceptionally, wildly stupid.

A day late and today, it’s Mother’s Day. Lots of films of deadly car accidents. Apparently there’s a lot of drinking on Mother’s Day. “Is Mother’s Day a drinking day?” asks Garry.

“Every day is drinking day, ” I comment. Hard to argue the point there.

Up comes video of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano which is pouring lava, ash, and poisonous gas all over the place. Half the island has been evacuated … but they are still need to ask rental areas to please close down because there is a shortage of water.

That’s not one stupid person. That’s a lot of stupid people.

They are still renting vacation spaces? On Kilauea? Where lava is rolling down the street and there is a very good chance that there will be  massive steam explosion. That is the exact type of explosion that took out the island of Krakatoa. In case you didn’t know that.

So they are interviewing someone from the island and she says “I am beginning to worry that maybe I’m not safe.”

You are on an island on which a large, multi-faceted volcano is actively pouring out lava, poisonous gas, and possibly going to explode. Just like Krakatoa. Boom! Giant rocks spewing into the sky.

And she wants to know if she is safe.

I am here to tell you a basic, but critical fact: living on an island that is on top of an active volcano is not safe EVEN if there is currently no lava in the streets and no one is predicting poisonous gases or an explosion that might eliminate the island entirely. I understand that it is a lovely part of the world, but it’s an active volcano. Of course you aren’t safe.

Safe is a hilltop in my neighborhood. The weather may be dicey, but the ground isn’t going to move. Moreover, there is minimal likelihood of mudslides, tornadoes, full throttle hurricanes (not impossible, but unlikely) —  and no volcano has exploded in several million years.

That’s about as safe as it gets.

Allow me to reiterate:

1 – Do NOT get out of your car in the safari park.
2 – If you are lucky enough to survive doing it once, don’t do again.
3 – Don’t build your dream house on top of an active volcano or earthquake fault.
4 – Avoid building on a flood plain or in places frequently buried by mudslides. Or turned to ash by massive wildfires.

The world throws all kinds of stuff at us anyway, no matter how hard you try to be safe. Personally, I think you should NOT help it along.

MEETING THE MOB: A PARTY FOR THE GANGSTERS OF MEDIA – Garry Armstrong

MEETING THE MOB AT FLORIAN HALL

Once a year, we gather to catch up.  It’s time for the getting together and annual partaking of the M.O.B. party. It’s the Media Of Boston where everyone who used to be someone and more than a few people who still are someone, get together and remember news — the funny, the weird, the crazy, and the scary stuff they covered during Boston’s news history.

Garry and Harvey Leonard, famed meteorologist sharing old Dodger baseball memories

I usually don’t go to these things. Part of it is that we are out in the boonies and all these events are in Boston or Dorchester. It’s a long drive through heavy traffic. As a general rule, I can’t find my way anywhere anymore. I never really could, but now that we don’t live in or near the city, it’s worse.

Lots of pictures of “the old days”

Marilyn promised to come with me this year, acting as my ears (she just went around telling everyone to yell in my left ear and oddly, that worked), and as my navigator which mostly meant yelling out the directions from the GPS. It’s not loud enough. Almost nothing is loud enough.

Andy announced dinner about to be served!

In past years,  most of us were competitors at Boston’s major TV News Departments, radio stations, and newspapers. Unlike media elsewhere, we always had a sense of respect, camaraderie between us — even though we all chased the scoops in one of the most  competitive major news markets in the country.

Three guys hanging out!

Careers overlap the end of radio news dominance, the transition from film to electronic news gathering. Some of us began working with elders from the Murrow Boys’ days. Our careers included covering the assassinations of political and social legends,  the Vietnam War, volatile court ordered school busing and integration,  Anti-Nuclear Power demonstrations, Watergate, Three Mile Island and the AIDS epidemic. The end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st saw an explosion of news coverage to match events like 9/11 and beyond.

Birth twins! Garry with Delores Handy (Brown) – both born April 7th!

Many of those at our newsies gathering have put their lives on the line —  multiple times — in pursuit of the truth which is often ridiculed by some public officials.

Charlie and Irene Ballantine – caught off-guard at the table!

The faces are probably familiar to those who have turned to the Boston media for news coverage for the past half a century.  Critics who have questioned their ethics have faded from public view as new crises demand instant and intensive coverage 24/7.

Something to drink?

Some of these careers began with Dwight Eisenhower in the Oval House,  John F.Kennedy as the Junior Massachusetts Senator and Mayor Kevin Hagen White overseeing the transformation of Boston into a world-class city that would host celebrated Tall Ships festivals,  court ordered school integration and a mega-expensive architectural “do” known as “The Big Dig”.

Garry, Lester, and Harvey. Someone is really tall!

Those of a certain age will remember some of these faces as young reporters and photographers who spent the best years of their lives covering stories that are now archive material.

You may not know some of the faces.  Many are behind the cameras that bring you haunting images of the news that never stops. They are reporters who never get their due respect. They’re part of the reason that Boston News coverage is highly respected around the world.

Many of us were bright-eyed idealists when we began our Boston careers. The city and New England region are journalistic gold mines and have been well paved over the years by those seeking journalistic treasure.

You’re looking at many ink-stained wretches who’ve been recognized for their diligent work.  Pulitzer, Emmy and other prestigious awards dot the homes of many of these folks who have devoted their lives to finding the truth, a job that is harder than ever in today’s political climate.

Our stories get bigger with each passing year.  We remember the facts but, in many cases,  prefer to “print the legend”.  We tend to remember our gaffes, the “egg in our faces” stories that go with any lengthy career. We smile at the recollection of our youthful energy and pursuit of stories that would top the likes of Watergate.

Garry and Fred Ward sharing stories

Amid the laughter of shared adventures, we remember those colleagues we’ve lost in the past year. Their images linger in our collective and personal sense memories.

Most of all, we agree, bad times aside,  we’ve been lucky to have spent years pursuing one of the best jobs on the face of the earth.


NOTE: Marilyn took pictures. Not enough and not as good as they should be — but she says she had the wrong camera. And it was hard to get people to stay put long enough to get a good shot. Also, there were so many cameras everywhere (what a surprise! with all those camera people and there were a lot of cameras!), she figured there would plenty of pictures getting taken, even if she personally didn’t take them.

BLOGGER AND A CAUSE

The question was: “Would you, if your day-to-day responsibilities were taken care of and you could throw yourself completely behind a cause, what would it be?”


The answer is … I wouldn’t. In the immortal words of Phil Ochs, “I ain’t marchin’ anymore.”

I marched against war and for peace.

I marched for civil rights.

I campaigned for universal health care and free care for anyone who needs it.

I marched against evil and for justice for my entire adult life and though the world has fallen into a terrible place, I’ve served my time and done my job. I’m tired. It’s time for the younger generations — those with stronger backs — to do the marching.

The worst part of this time is I’m not sure, after all the marching, if I accomplished anything other than making denim a fashion fabric. I think I’ve probably accomplished more blogging than I did by marching. There’s an irony in there and maybe I’ll find it. Eventually.

Photo: NY Times

I have discovered that the world spins on its axis and night follows day, whether or not I march. I do the best I can with the means at my disposal … which means I have a platform and I write. Every now and then, I dig a little money out of the emptiness of our “family wealth” and give $5 or $10 to someone who is fighting for a better world.

If you are going out there to do battle, fight the good fight. Know my best wishes and hopes go with you. Also, take sandwiches, something to drink, and wear your most comfortable shoes.

BICENTENNIAL FIREWORKS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I was lucky enough to have a truly remarkable and unique experience. It happened on July 4, 1976. It was part of the huge Bicentennial celebration in New York City in honor of the 200th Birthday of the Declaration Of Independence. There were festivities all over the city for a whole week.

There was a parade of old-fashioned Tall Ships from all over that majestically sailed up the Hudson River. I only saw that on TV but it was an incredible sight. (I did get to see a few individual ships in the harbor as we drove into the city, but not the full parade).

One of the Tall Ship-s sailing on the Hudson River with the World Trade Center in the background

The pièce de résistance of the celebration week was the fireworks display that was set to go off from the Statue of Liberty on the night of July 4.

At the time, my husband, Larry, worked at a law firm in New York City. The law firm scheduled a big office party on the night of the 4th of July. They booked the restaurant at the top of World Trade Center One, Windows On The World. The restaurant was on the 107th floor and had an unobstructed view of the Statue of Liberty, which was just a short distance out in the harbor.

When the time came for the fireworks, we all gathered around the floor to ceiling windows facing the Statue of Liberty. I’m short, so I was funneled to the very front of the crowd. There was absolutely nothing between me and the view outside.

Bicentennial Fireworks with World Trade Center

The fireworks display was, appropriately extraordinary. It was so close I felt I could reach out and touch the bursts of light directly in front of me. It had an eerie quality because I was 107 floors up in the air. So the fireworks were not only nearby and coming right at me, they were coming right at me at eye level. They weren’t coming from above, as they usually are. They seemed to be aimed right at me. I even flinched at first, fearing that the window would be hit by stray sparks.

Fireworks in color, with World Trade Center in background

Once I relaxed, I sat back and enjoyed a truly awe-inspiring show. I’ve always loved fireworks. Unfortunately, no display since then could even come close to rivaling that night.

Remembering that night is bittersweet. While it was a euphoric experience for me, it’s sad to realize that no one will ever again get that great view from the long gone tower at the World Trade Center. I’m sure the views at the new buildings on the World Trade Center site are magnificent. But for those of us who lived through 9/11, it will never be the same.

LOST HORIZONS: ARMSTRONGS MISS IMPORTANT LUNCHEON, EVENT-DAZED, CONFUSED IN DOWNTOWN BOSTON

This is a hard one to share. Make it embarrassing, BIGLY embarrassing for someone who lived and worked in Boston for more than 30 years. The résumé says I worked as a knowledgeable, street savvy TV news reporter. Familiar with all the nooks and crannies of Beantown. Well, as the man says, that’s FAKE news!

Outbound

We had premonitions of a mission impossible last night when we discussed if we should attend the noon luncheon featuring nationally respected Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. Marilyn and I bandied emotions about the drive from rural Uxbridge into the big city.

Yes. No. Maybe.

We agreed it would be a noteworthy event. I looked forward to getting  Bill Bratton’s take on crime in the United States, especially the frequency of mass shootings across the country.  I remember Bratton’s tenure in Boston when drive-by shootings filled my assignments three or four times a week. Bratton has also headed Police departments in New York City and Los Angeles.

Surely, he would have cogent observations I could share via blog and our local newspaper. That was all on the plus side for attending the Boston luncheon. The negative side?  Marilyn and I shared murky smiles about our mutual nemesis — the Mass Pike and downtown Boston. It seemed almost comical as fear gripped our sensibilities.

Boston awaits

Sometimes you shouldn’t sell your fears short. We made it into Boston with minimal trouble, but I wasn’t fooled.  The first hint of trouble came when the designated Mass Pike exit was a no-show. No problem!  Marilyn, always the excellent navigator, directed me to and into Boston’s financial district.


Marilyn’s Note: You just know your excursion is in trouble when the designated exit from the Pike doesn’t exist. It means the directions are old. When there’s one error, you can bet your bippy there will be more.


The second hint of trouble came amid confusion in the parking garage of our designated building. First, we were on the wrong side of the building and that part of the garage was only for those with a transponder. We got to the other side of the building. Parked. It turned out we were in the wrong building entirely — despite the instructions on our invitation. I was confused and angry. I believe Marilyn was irritated with my confusion. Why didn’t I, the know-it-all reporter, know where we were supposed to be? I was irritated with myself!!


Marilyn’s Note: I was not irritated at Garry’s inability to find his way through streets that have changed completely since we lived there. I was annoyed because I told him to make a left and he ignored me — and went straight ahead. It turned out not to make any difference since we were at the wrong building in the wrong part of town. 


As the situation deteriorated with ever-increasing aggravation, we finally agreed on something.  Let’s get the hell out of Boston and head home!! Surely, the worst was behind us.  Make that mistake number three! We escaped Boston and were back on the Mass Pike. We would laugh about this when we got home and relaxed.

Mistake#4!

Marilyn was talking to me but I couldn’t hear her over the ambient car noise and blare of sirens from Police Cars that snaked around us and the Pike traffic. She thought I was faking deafness — which elevated my irritation as I focused on the route home and our newest nemesis, a giant midday traffic jam on the Pike.

Mother of Mercy!

Judas Priest in your Mama’s combat boots!!

I couldn’t take much more of this. Marilyn talked. I nodded while missing almost everything she said. I looked down at the dashboard and saw the fuel gauge edging down to “Empty.”  For chrissakes! We’re running out of gas??

Obscenities filled my mind as traffic inched along like an aging battalion of frogs. I had a nightmarish vision of what might happen next and told Marilyn I’d tell her about it when we got home. Surely, now the worst really was behind us. My stomach was churning as the highway traffic continued at a snail’s pace. Marilyn was taking pictures of our slow-mo drive to document our long day’s journey into hell.

Finally, we negotiated our exit off the Mass Pike. I casually looked at the fuel gauge which had now dipped below “Empty.” I silently cursed the gods and looked for an opening on the last major artery of our drive home.  My mind drifted off to other things, including tonight’s World Series game.  Something to smile about in anticipation of more in what’s become an exciting fall classic between the Houston Astros and the La La Dodgers.

I was pondering the possibility of my hero, broadcaster Vin Scully dropping in to cover tonight’s game. That thought prompted my first smile of the day.  My smile grew bigger as I realized we were HOME … in downtown Uxbridge.

Home again!

We ended our afternoon with Marilyn explaining to shoppers and staffers at our local supermarket why we were dressed in our Sunday best. Marilyn’s account of our trip to Boston seemed to draw smiles and laughter.

I’m glad someone thought this day was funny.

NOT THE NEW ORANGE – SAME OLD BLACK

We have a date in downtown Boston. The former Police Chief of Boston, New York, and L.A.  — William (Bill) Bratton — is speaking at the 60 State Street. That’s the really tall building on the edge of the Harbor in Boston. He should be an interesting speaker. He’s smart and he knows cities and crime and probably more than a little something about politics.

I’m pissy about it because, for the first time since who knows when, I had to put on make-up. Make-up? What’s that? 

I tried to go with pantyhose and nearly normal shoes until I realized I didn’t know when I’d bought the hose — or if they was any chance of them being my size. Or if I remembered how to put them on. I found thin socks and pulled on my “dressy” boots. They could be shinier, but they will have to do. Presumably no one will be staring at my feet.

I slid into a black dress I bought from L.L. Beane two years ago and never wore. Remarkably, it fits. Put on some jewelry. Perfume — a hint.

Then I extruded myself from the bedroom —  smelling yummy and looking not too bad, all things considered. The dogs jumped all over me.

Now I’m wearing black — which is not orange because I wore an orange dress yesterday and there was nothing black about it — with makeup and boots and plenty of dog hair. I yelled at them for jumping on me, which I’m sure confused them. Honestly, I’m a little confused myself and not averse to sharing the feeling. Besides, confusion won’t ruin their lives. Especially when followed by a biscuit.

They got biscuits. Now I get coffee. Then we are off to Boston — an hour and a half (if we are lucky) drive through some of America’s heaviest traffic — so we can park at the garage. For … are you ready? $42.

60 State Street, Boston

Forty-two dollars for a rubber chicken lunch. Drinks are no doubt free, but neither of us drink. Why did we agree to this? It seemed like a good idea at the time. Remind me I said this.

I’ll try to get back to you all when we get home. If we don’t get stuck in rush hour and end up coming home sometime tomorrow.

CANDID SHOOTING – IN BLACK AND WHITE

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Candid Shots


I don’t do a lot of candid shooting mainly because I’m not involved in that kind of event very often. But, as it happened, the event at the Tuskegee Airmen was a bonanza of candid shooting. Here are a few starring Garry Armstrong and others. There were a lot of set up shots. I took pictures between the set up shots because the “caught between” pictures are much more interesting.

Garry, waiting for the show to start

One of the scholarship winners

On mic

Here is one Garry took of me. Garry was busy for much of the event, so I took most of the pictures. I like this one, though. I am watching the skies.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – I was watching for the flight that had gone up!

ANTIQUE AIRPLANES – TUSKEGEE AIRMEN

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Ready to go

Saturday. The Tuskegee Airmen 2017 Scholarship Event. A lovely day with perfect weather. We took pictures. Many pictures and I haven’t had nearly enough time to process most of them. These are my favorites. So far.

Pilot and passenger preparing for take-off

A puff of smoke says the engine is working

Propeller on!

The airplane rides were done in a pre-World War 2 bi-plane. The pilot, an original Tuskegee pilot, was flying and entirely more agile than I am. I’m not sure whether to be encouraged by seeing so many people more than twenty years older than me who are in such great shape … or discouraged at how pathetic I am.

Up and away!

Maybe both? Anyway, he went flying off. I figured (as did everyone) that he would take her up, do a few circles and come back. Then he would take the next person up. But he went up and they disappeared.

Forty minutes later, they were still flying. Every now and then, we’d see him pop up on the horizon or hear the engine, then they’d be gone into the clouds.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Almost lost in the clouds!

Garry was tired too and we had a long ride home, so we left before they touched down. He was still flying. For all we know, he may still be flying.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – I’m taking pictures

I’ll do some more processing, so I’ll have more pictures.